It’s one thing to be a world class musician, but applying that talent to spontaneous performance in a studio setting is something else entirely. For their second formal collaboration, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott perform rather than produce – the recordings catch them in the act of making music, rather than making a record. Sitting face-to-face for most of these tracks, they pick and sing for one another rather than for the microphones, and the results contain the essence of duet music. There’s an interplay between their instruments and voices, provocations made and instantly answered, that are often still-born or sterilized by the process of recording. But such is the nature of their collaboration, which began with 2000’s Real Time and which grew in countless career intersections.
Last year’s We’re Usually a Lot Better Than This, showed how quickly and easily the duo could come together in live performance, and how the element of surprise could spur great stage performances. Their latest, built from new solo material, a co-write and a few covers, shows how empathetic each is to the other’s instrumental and vocal traits. There are few others who Â could pull together such performances this nuanced and riveting in just three days. O’Brien and Scott sound as if they’re singing well-worn folk songs they’d been touring for years, when in fact the original material is new. They conjure George Jones’ spirit with their harmony runs on the possum’s sad-sack “Just One More Time” and are joined by John Prine for his own “Paradise.” Waiting thirteen years is one way to avoid the sophomore jinx; hopefully these two will get to junior year a bit more quickly. [Â©2013 Hyperbolium]